Don’t Accept Second Best

napkinThen James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”  But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:35-45 (NLT)

Yesterday I shared my favorite little ditty that reminds me how God displays His gracious and loving character in my dog. For those of you who aren’t dog lovers, it’s a stretch. For those of you who have shared your life with a pooch—you probably understand.

I’m still sick and Ozzy is still by my side. There is a glimmer of hope, I can put words into a sentence today. I also ate some yummy Cheetos ™today—in my mind, they are as good as any medicine from the drug store. As I got up to get a drink, Ozzy quickly and suspiciously took my place on the bed, a move out of the ordinary for him.

Hmmm. Something was up. I asked him what he was doing and I got the sheepish look of one caught in the act. As much as Ozzy reminded me of God’s goodness yesterday, he reminded me of my selfish fear today.

Ozzy repositioned himself to eat the paper napkin that once held my Cheetos™.

The napkin wasn’t as good as the Cheetos™. It was an inedible paper napkin—a rather poor substitute.

It got me thinking. Easter is approaching. Palm Sunday was yesterday. I thought of the disciples full of anticipation. Eagerly awaiting Jesus’ move to carry out the plan they concocted in their minds. Most likely, all of them jockeying for position—some of them bold enough to ask for the place at Jesus’ right hand.

Jesus had a different plan for them. He was about to lead by example. Jesus’ call isn’t for position. Jesus’ call is to service. It’s not a call for getting—rather a call for giving. It’s a call for courage. It’s a call for trust.

You see, Ozzy had good dog food in his bowl. He was willing to trade that for some oily paper. There has never been a day when Ozzy’s gone hungry. There has never been a day when his needs have gone unmet. Still, he will lunge at something if he thinks he’s missing out.

Fear motivates one to accept second best. Distrust draws the heart away from the better and allows one to settle for good enough. Selfishness keeps the focus on, self.

Jesus calls His disciples to follow His lead—deny yourself and follow Me.

Jesus told His disciples to choose the better way—the one of servant hood.

Jesus promised His care would continue after He was gone from their presence.

Don’t settle for second best—follow Christ’s lead.

Father, help me to never settle for second best. Remind me that I can trust You. Remind me that my attempts at meeting my own needs will always leave me empty. Give me the courage to trust Your pan. Give me the boldness to serve.

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Snuggling Up

Ozzy looking upI’ve been sick for 2 weeks—I can’t seem to shake this bug! Ozzy is my snuggle-buddy when I don’t feel well.  My barking cough, wheeze and generalized misery makes him snuggle tighter.   So he’s on my mind today. Ozzy is a schnauzer-poodle mix, therefore a schnoodle. His daily affirmation is; You are a handsome gentleman and wonderful in every way. I’ve had many dogs in my life, by far Ozzy has been the best. He’s a very friendly dog. Always wanting to please me, he is very obedient with the exception of the times his exuberance gets the best of him.

Having been a dog lover all my life, I honestly prefer the company of a dog to that of most people I know. Dogs have a way of making you feel good. A dog loves you to death, even on your most despicable days.

When I look at Ozzy’s innocent face, the little video and song God and Dog comes to mind.   No, I do not think God is a dog. I do think God reveals Himself in His creation, and the song by Wendy Francisco captures that truth in a simple and compelling way.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, let me suggest some unique gifts. Perhaps you can share the amazing story of grace with the ones you love. I have 3 devotional books you can order from Amazon.com. Each has zero calories but offers a sweet look a God’s amazing grace.  They’re perfect for your mom OR someone else’s mom!

Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a good read for the new believer or non-believer. It offers an introduction to God’s character, Jesus’ example of grace, why grace is AMAZING and the call of the Christian life—doing good things not simply following a list of “don’ts”

The Books We Never Read is the best bargain—it’s a 3 month devotional. If you think the Old Testament is irrelevant to your life today, read The Books We Never Read and you’ll find the story of God’s grace told and re-told in the lives of people with funny names, who lived in places with strange names, but who share the same struggles you do. You’ll also find the same grace tucked in these ancient stories.

A Clever Disguise if you’ve read my devotional blog, you understand, Ozzy is my handsome gentleman who is wonderful in every way!   Ozzy is my schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s a great dog that teaches me every day about grace, trust, dependence and obedience. If you have a dog lover in your life—this is the devotional book for him or her. It’s priced for gift giving.

If you find yourself clicking around on Pintrest, search for my blog. You can find a link to the blog on Pintrest—Repin it when you see it!

Thanks to those of you who share my blog link, who have signed up to get an email each day when the blog posts, and who click the “like” button on Facebook! Those little things make a big difference!

If you doubt God’s ability to use the unqualified, to do more than I could ask or even imagine, scroll down and peek at the world map in the right hand column. Each one of those “*” represents a country where people have seen Finding the Holy in a mundane world. If you have shared this blog with someone, you are part of a worldwide ministry. God truly is amazing! I’m truly amazed! God can use a discombobulated, unsettled goof-ball to spread His word around the world.

Thanks for your part in sharing this blog.

Jesus was unchanged by Thomas’ doubt.

He thought he was safe with his questioning doubt and fear.

I would be avoiding the risen Savior.

The cost of discipleship is an investment, one with an eternal reward.

Jesus was willing to suffer to gain a place of honor.

Worth Dying For

cross3

Good Friday is just one week away. It seems right to spend this next week looking directly at our redeemer, Jesus. I thought about Hebrew 12:2-3. I’ve included the paraphrase from The Message and the more familiar translation from the New International Version.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (MSG)

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

As Easter approaches and you fix your eyes on Jesus keep this thought in mind; for the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.

I pondered that sentence.

Certainly, there was nothing joyful about dying on a cross. Jesus, although He is fully God, was also a man. He experienced emotions, felt pain; His body bled and died. Crucifixion was not so much an execution as it was slow torture that ended in death. It was a shameful way to die. Crucified criminals were public spectacles; they hung naked on a cross, with a plaque declaring the crime tacked above the dying criminal’s head. Death came slowly as the one crucified died of dehydration or suffocation. Jesus was not simply crucified; He was beaten first—battered beyond recognition. For Jesus, there was no joy in the act of being crucified.

So what does that verse mean?

Scriptures makes it clear, Jesus was willing to suffer through the crucifixion out of obedience to the Father. That is very pragmatic. Jesus did acquiesce to the will of the Father. I don’t know about you, for me, strict obedience doesn’t bring joy.  Obedience is something one does out of a sense of duty or obligation. None of those words conjures the notion of joy in anyone’s mind.

Jesus was willing to suffer to gain a place of honor. At the end of His suffering, Jesus earned the seat at His Father’s right hand. Although that is glorious in and of itself, look past the obvious and see what goes along with that position.

When Jesus bled and died on the cross, He became the redeemer of sinful humanity. If you have accepted that gift of grace, YOU are the joy that made going to the cross worth it to Jesus. As Jesus sits at His Father’s right hand, He shows the Father those who He has redeemed. What a joyful time that must be for Jesus and His Father, “Look, Abba, I have one more! She is worth the suffering I endured! He is worth the suffering I endured!”

Does that thought breathe new life into your celebration of Easter?

YOU are worth dying for!

Christ paid the price of your salvation. What joy it is for Jesus to offer you a gracious gift—the one He paid for with His life.   Counting you as one of His, made the brutal, painful death worth it. Redeeming you made His obedience glorious.

Today, if you have accepted the gracious gift Jesus died to offer you, bask in His love for you. If you have not, accept Jesus as the only sacrifice a holy God will accept for your sin and make His joy complete.

As Easter approaches, join me and take a good, long look at Jesus.

Father thank You for the gift of Your Son. Keep my eyes focused on Jesus. Let me learn from His example.

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Answering the Call

callOne day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple. Luke 14:25-33 (MSG)

It started in the corner of the living room.

I owned a home built in 1920. It had beautiful oak woodwork, wide baseboards and a big oak staircase. I was sure hard wood floors lay under the lack-luster carpet. My husband was gone for the weekend. Sure enough, I lifted up one corner of the carpet and a project was born. The first strip of carpet came up so quickly, I knew I would have this project done by noon.

Then I needed to move the furniture. Some went to the kitchen, some out on the porch. Soon I was back to pulling up the carpet. I was starting to get tired. I went to the basement to get the pry bar. I pulled up the tack board, poking and scratching myself in the legs and arms. I needed band-aids. A huge pile of carpet and padding were in the middle of my 10”x 15” living room.

As I rolled up the carpet padding, the sneezing started brought on by uncountable years of dust that filled my sinuses. I tossed the padding outside. I rolled up the carpet. I spent about 30 minutes trying to get the giant roll outside. Then I gave up and decided to roll it into smaller bundles—out the door it went.

Now, totally pooped, I made a new discovery! As I walked across the floor, I found what my exhausted mind counted as 5,000 staples. I had to pull those out one by one. For a while, I just laid on the bare floor. As I looked around, the furniture still sat in various places around the house. There were rolls of carpet padding and carpet in the yard. The initial thrill of this project passed. I couldn’t move.

It started raining. I started crying.

Jesus turned around to see the crowd following Him. He needed to get the attention of those thrilled by the miracles, tickled by the sharp words to the snotty Pharisees and corrupt tax collectors, and those following just because this guy, Jesus, is the newest thing to come to town.

Jesus told those who followed Him, that being part of his kingdom comes with a price.   Jesus started out by telling the people, they may have to choose between Jesus and family relationships. One may even have to abandon his or her own plans to follow Christ.

Jesus’ use of the phrase, shoulder his own cross and follow me, was not lost to those who saw the Roman crucifixions on a regular basis. The crowd knew the seriousness of what Jesus was saying. This discipleship thing was not a feel-good, miracle rally against the establishment. Discipleship was an all consuming effort toward an ultimate goal.

Counting the cost is prudent. Build a house, pick a fight, tear up the carpet—one should be sure he can finish before the project begins.

That was the message Jesus wanted to crowd to understand. Jesus is looking for commitment, not just followers. He acknowledges commitment is back-breaking work. Finish the thoughts in Jesus’ examples. The prudent builder ends up with a finished home.   The wise king ends up with an expanded kingdom.

The cost of discipleship is an investment, one with an eternal reward.

Jesus made it clear. He’s looking for disciples, not simply followers.

Father, I want to deepen my commitment to Your kingdom. Help me loosen my hold on the things I think are important and follow you boldly. Thank You for the power of the Holy Spirit which makes the life of discipleship possible.

 

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Come Out! Come Out! Where Ever You Are!

hiding3That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”   John 20:19-23 (NLT)

I messed up –it was bad. Not only was I wrong, I tried desperately to make it look like I was right. In the end, the facts forced me to admit, I was wrong. My gracious friends quickly forgave me, but I felt the sting of my mistake and arrogance. In my embarrassment and remorse, I withdrew.

Scripture is clear the disciples hid after Jesus’ crucifixion. John tells us why. They thought they were next. Certainly, the Jewish leaders who initiated Jesus’ execution knew His followers. It’s reasonable to think their names were next on the list.

Consider this. Do you think the disciples could have been hiding from Jesus? Every one of them, except John, abandoned their friend to save their own skin. Peter, James and John couldn’t stay awake to pray with Jesus in His moments of anguish. They watched, helpless as their friend was beaten, humiliated and died hanging on a cross.

Put yourself in their place. I would be avoiding the risen Savior.

As Easter approaches, do you find yourself hiding from Jesus? You may not cower behind a locked door. You may be sitting in a pew at church each week. You might blame society for the reason your hide when really it’s Jesus you’re avoiding. Have you disappointed Jesus too many times? Perhaps you believe the lie—You’ve done too much, You’re sin is too black, God won’t forgive me for   state your sin here  you know, it’s that sin only YOU and God know about.

If you’ve been avoid Jesus because of your sin, look at this gracious interaction. Jesus appeared miraculously, and spoke, “Peace.” Jesus showed them the wounds—the sign of His love. In spite of their failure, their unbelief, and the fact they never really “got it” while Jesus taught them, Jesus blessed them, commissioned them to His service and reminded them of His forgiveness.

Jesus is waiting to show you that all He said is true. He’s waiting to offer you forgiveness and the peace forgiveness brings. Jesus is waiting to offer you a life of abundance and meaning as you follow His lead.

Listen this Easter and you’ll hear Jesus’ call, “Come out! Come out! Where ever you are!”

Father, draw me out of my hiding place. Let Your love and grace move me to repentance. Move me out of my hiding place of guilt and despair and into Your loving arms of peace and fulfillment. Thank You, Jesus, for Your loving sacrifice that makes me whole.

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Doubt and Fear

rooster2And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:55-62 (NIV)

Matthew                Mark                   Luke                     John

Peter’s three-time denial is a well-known story. Jesus, in response to Peter’s bold proclamation to follow Jesus to the grave if necessary, predicted Peter’s denial before the rooster crowed.   That’s an odd indicator—a rooster’s crow.

If you are “city folk” and watch movies, you may be inclined to think roosters only crow at dawn. It’s quaint and it does occur. If you’ve spent any time on a farm with a brood of chickens, it doesn’t take long before you find the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-do” isn’t reserved for only daybreak.

I’ll admit I’m a little afraid of chickens. Hens and roosters have chased me. Although a chicken’s arsenal is limited—flapping wings, sharp claws and sturdy beaks—they can put up a painful fight as anyone who’s been flogged or pecked can attest. Still, chickens are truly chickens at heart. They would rather avoid a fight than try to win one.

Enter the rooster. It’s a rooster’s job to keep his chickens safe. To accomplish that, he crows when there is danger. That is why roosters crow at times other than dawn. If you watch the hens when the rooster crows, you’ll see them all stop whatever it is they are doing—frozen, the hens watch for any sudden movement—the movement will send them clucking and scurrying in different directions or back to hen-house.

Peter ran the gambit of emotions during the Passover meal, the garden prayer, the arrest and the trails of Jesus. Peter watched from a distance as the predictions of Jesus began to play out before his eyes. Peter was probably wondering how difficult it would be to find a new fishing boat as he wondered why he wasted three years following this man, Jesus, around. Fatigue, fear, panic—I’m sure they all swirled in his mind as Peter watched the man he pinned his hopes on taken into custody and beaten. How long would it be before he was the one being beaten? If he could lay low — maybe this nightmare would end and the twelve would be together again, with Jesus—as it was before Judas ran out and Jesus insisted on talking about His death.

Then Peter heard the words, Hey! You were with HIM! Peter’s reaction was the perfect “blow off,” Pffft—You don’t know what you’re talking about. Peter was safe for a while as just one of the crowd. As more people recognized him, as his accent betrayed him, his panic moved him deeper into fear and denial. I don ‘t know what curse words were in his culture, but Peter was not going to be named as a friend of that %!#+&* Jesus-guy. The crusty fisherman reverted to his old self and separated himself from Jesus with his frenzied words.

Then a rooster crowed.

I have to think Peter’s heart skipped a beat. His fear turned to anguish.  Jesus, Peter’s friend—beaten, spat upon, silent—made eye contact with Peter.   Peter left the courtyard and cried bitter tears.

Peter thought the low light of night and the glow of the fire would hide him. He thought he was safe with his questioning doubt and fear. Peter’s fear led him on a downward spiral that started with words and concluded with raging emotion—the rooster’s crow got his attention. It stopped him.  The rooster’s nighttime cry redirected him. The rooster’s cry warned Peter—the path he was on was far more dangerous than the path he was trying to avoid.

Fear, sin, rebellion, all those lead one down a path of cost, pain and loss. Peter was jolted from his selfish tantrum and saw his friend. Jesus, the one who loved him, who gave him a new name, who prayed over him, who warned him, the one about to become the sacrifice for the sin of the world—seeing Jesus changes everything.

Two med cried bitter tears that night. Peter’s tears led him to repentance. Peter’s tears, ultimately, led him back to Jesus.

Father, give me listening ears to hear Your voice when my selfish heart tries to lead me astray. When fear and doubt cause me to be willful and frightened—get my attention—draw me back to look at Jesus. Help me keep my eyes on Jesus. Let Your love and grace bring me to repentance.

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Changing Doubt to Faith

doubting

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” John 20:25 (MSG)

The first time I was in the OR during nursing school I got sick. It was not from being in the OR. It was coincidental. I had some questionable food the night before. I was in the OR, ready to see the surgery and I started getting hot. I must have looked funny since the circulating nurse looked at me and asked me what was wrong. I told her I felt hot. That nurse whisked away from the operating suite before I could say another word.

Feeling better, a few days later I had another opportunity to re-visit the OR.   It was then I found my previous visit did not go unnoticed. My welcome the second day was, “Oh, you’re the one who got sick the other day.”

One moment of claustrophobic hotness and I had a reputation, “the sick one.”

I can identify with Thomas. You know him, Doubting Thomas. One moment of unbelief and this poor disciple ends up with the name that is synonymous with unbelief; Doubting Thomas.

It’s fascinating to see Thomas in another setting. Jesus, informed of His friend Lazarus’ death, decides to make the trip to Bethany. Thomas is the one who rallies the rest of the disciples and seems willing to face the inevitable along with Christ.

That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions,

“Come along. We might as well die with him.” John 11:16 (MSG)

Do you see Thomas in a little different light? Realizing a trip back to Judea might mean trouble for Jesus, it’s Thomas who is willing to follow Christ to death. At that moment, that is.

After Jesus’ arrest, all the disciples, except John, deserted Jesus. I doubt they went far. Out of fear, they hid. It’s likely, from a distance, they watched Jesus on the cross. If Thomas didn’t see Jesus die, some of his comrades did. Jesus was dead. There was no doubt. Thomas, the pragmatist, didn’t understand this talk of seeing Jesus alive.   Here is John’s record of the fateful moment.

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”  But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room.  This time Thomas was with them.

Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then He focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”  Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”  John 20:24-29 (MSG)

This is a tender moment between Jesus and Thomas. Jesus knew what Thomas said. Jesus made Thomas’ ultimatum the invitation. Instead of rebuke, Jesus invites Thomas to do the thing he said it would take to convince him Jesus was alive. The focus of Jesus’ attention was Thomas, not his doubting, not his weakness, not his fear.

Jesus was unchanged by Thomas’ doubt. Thomas was changed by Jesus’ grace.

Do you doubt? Everyone has in a moment of weakness, anger, uncertainty, selfishness or pride. In all of that, Jesus remains unchanged. The invitation remains unchanged. Jesus is bigger than your doubt. He’s man enough, He’s God enough, to take your unbelief and with love mold it into faith; the kind of faith that cries, “Master!”

Father as I face may uncertain situations, remind me of Your unchanging love and grace. Help my unbelief. Open my eyes to the truth in Your Word. Open my heart to the depths of Your grace. Change me, Father, change my unbelieving heart.

 

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Room For Doubt

bum-rapThis past we walked along the road to Emmaus. It’s an interesting road. If you’re honest you’ve walked on the road to Emmaus.

In Christian circles, I think doubt gets a bum rap.

It’s easy to revert to the I’m better than him or her because I believe without doubting. That thought has passed through my mind. Allow me to clarify, if your doubt comes from a contentious place—if the only point of your doubt is to argue—can I suggest that you take a moment of introspection. Make sure your doubt isn’t a defense mechanism. Make sure you aren’t using doubt as a way to keep God at arm’s length.

Jesus didn’t shut out those who questioned. He did get the attention of the thickheaded and slow hearted, but then lovingly opened the minds and hearts of His followers.

As Easter approaches, if you struggle with doubt and fear—if things haven’t gone just as you planned—spend a few more moments with Jesus. Don’t try to hide your doubt from Him. Jesus isn’t put off by your questions, disappointment, or failures. He’s ready to walk beside you and lead you to new hope!

Speaking of Easter, it’s not too early to order a devotional book to place in an Easter basket. If you are looking for something other than candy, can I make a suggestion? Perhaps you can share the amazing story of grace with the ones you love. I have 3 devotional books you can order from Amazon.com. Each has zero calories but offers a sweet look a God’s amazing grace.

Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a good read for the new believer or non-believer. It offers an introduction to God’s character, Jesus’ example of grace, why grace is AMAZING and the call of the Christian life—doing good things not simply following a list of “don’ts”

The Books We Never Read is the best bargain—it’s a 3 month devotional. If you think the Old Testament is irrelevant to your life today, read The Books We Never Read and you’ll find the story of God’s grace told and re-told in the lives of people with funny names, who lived in places with strange names, but who share the same struggles you do. You’ll also find the same grace tucked in these ancient stories.

A Clever Disguise if you’ve read my devotional blog, you understand, Ozzy is my handsome gentleman who is wonderful in every way!   Ozzy is my schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s a great dog that teaches me every day about grace, trust, dependence and obedience. If you have a dog lover in your life—this is the devotional book for him or her. It’s priced for gift giving.

If you find yourself clicking around on Pintrest, search for my blog. You can find a link to the blog on Pintrest—Repin it when you see it!

Thanks to those of you who share my blog link, who have signed up to get an email each day when the blog posts, and who click the “like” button on Facebook! Those little things make a big difference!

If you doubt God’s ability to use the unqualified, to do more than I could ask or even imagine, scroll down and peek at the world map in the right hand column. Each one of those “*” represents a country where people have seen Finding the Holy in a mundane world. If you have shared this blog with someone, you are part of a worldwide ministry. God truly is amazing! I’m truly amazed! God can use a discombobulated, unsettled goof-ball to spread His word around the world.

Thanks for your part in sharing this blog.

Sometimes God cracks me up.

What is the chief end of man?

Perhaps God has let you down.

He came to walk beside His sad, disappointed friends.

Could it be these two followed Jesus believing without faith?

With age comes clarity.

What If?

doubtFor if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead.  And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.  In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (NLT)

If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. 1 Corinthians 15:16-19 (MSG)

Have you ever fallen into the “What if…” trap? There are times when the thought passes through my mind, What if this Christianity thing really is a made up story—what if the atheists are right and there really is nothing beside us and death is the end of existence? I’m sure the opposite is true. I’m sure the those who reject religion have the passing thought, What if I’m wrong and there is a God.

If you are a thinker, regardless of your particular position, you have wrestled with some doubt.

As a believer, I often find myself wondering, along with King David why God allows evil to run rampant. As I come face-to-face with suffering, I sometimes wonder why God allows it. Injustice, evil, apathy, cruelty—those all too human experiences can cause a twinge of doubt to well up in my heart.

When I wrestle with doubt, I think back to those who actually walked and talked with Jesus in person. Certainly, if I spent time with Jesus before His crucifixion—on that first Easter Sunday morning I would have jumped out of bed with joy and been thrilled when I saw the empty tomb.

At least that is what I’d like to think.

I used to be hard on the disciples. How could they be so dense? I like the words of Jesus in John 14 when He asked, Have I been with you every day and you still don’t know who I am? I would roll my eyes along with Jesus and wonder how they could have missed it. With age comes clarity. I know how the disciples could miss it. I know how I’ve missed it—multiple times.

Those on the road to Emmaus, and those left behind in Jerusalem were spinning in a whirlwind of emotion and doubt—even after seeing the empty tomb.

Easter. It’s the turning point in history. The moment that stone rolled away from the entrance of Jesus’ grave everything changed.  Paul wrote about it in his first letter to the new church at Corinth. Easter is the foundation—the solid foundation on which our faith can rest.

Christ is risen! That changes everything. If you find doubt tapping you on the shoulder, go back to the foundation. Christ is risen! If the whisper of uncertainty begins to overwhelm your joy, return to the foundation. Christ is risen! If the haze and darkness of distrust cause you to question God’s love, return to the foundation. Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Father, thank You for loving me in my doubt. Thank You for being bigger than my imagination. Thank You for being more loving than I can understand. Remind me to return to the foundation of Your love for me when doubt and fear distract me.

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Starting a Fire

fire triangleThat same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” Luke 24:13-34 (MSG)

 

Each year at the hospital, we review fire safety. One of the things we review is the fire triangle. For a fire to occur, three things must be present: oxygen, fuel and heat, an igniting agent. Taking away one of those things, quenches the fire.

The disappointed, sad followers and the unexpected Jesus interact on the road. This is one of my favorite stories from the gospels. Despair, bewilderment, burning desire, and unbridled enthusiasm—it’s all in this story. There’s some name-calling and the side of Jesus I love to see revealed in scripture.

There’s a bit more—some nuance.

Jesus listened to His sad friends tell their tale of woe and then responded rather oddly. It’s bad form to call someone mourning the death of a loved friend a name. I don’t know what your reaction to being called stupid is. For me, the conversation would be over, but the two on the road listened to the stories that Jesus unfolded. Jesus reviewed the Old Testament revelations of the Messiah—Jesus told His friends HIS story.

Being teachable—even in the middle of a tragedy—these two followers were sad and disappointed but still hungry. They were still teachable.

It was more than that—Jesus indicted their hearts.

Could it be these two followed Jesus believing without faith? That makes me pause and take inventory. Do I believe in God without believing God? Can I list off His attributes but live a life unchanged by the great God I know? Am I slow-hearted? Do I hold back my heart—my faith—while offering up my intellect?

Despite the sting—they listened as Jesus did what He so often did. Jesus quoted scripture. He put together the pieces woven throughout the history’s record that point to Him as the Messiah.

Jesus’ words changed the two. The name-caller-Jesus turned into the gentleman Jesus. He was not going to stay without an invitation. Undoubtedly, Jesus would have kept walking, or disappeared as quickly as He appeared, had the two not invited Him to join them.

Have you invited Jesus to stay—to stay when you’re miserable, inconsolable, disappointed, disillusioned, thick-headed or slow-hearted?

It’s easy to dismiss Jesus at the very time it’s essential to beg Him to stay.

Notice Jesus’ response. He stayed.   It was only after rebuke and reproof, a journey through the Word, and an insistent invitation the two caught on “fire.” This phrase is one of my favorite in the Bible, Did our hearts not burn within us? Taking away any element of this story would bring a different end. The sad walk to Emmaus would have continued.

That fire Jesus started wasn’t the end. These two acted returning to tell the other sad, disappointed followers in Jerusalem what those stories Jesus told them meant. JESUS IS ALIVE! Jesus is the MESSIAH!

  • Pair your belief in God with faith. Learn about Him. Learn to trust His love, mercy and grace.
  • Stay open to the sting that sometimes comes from the light of the Truth as it’s revealed in scripture. The Message paraphrases 2 Timothy 3:16 this way:  There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to   live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (MSG)
  • In your darkest moments, sometimes moments too dark for others to stay by your side, ask Jesus to stay. He will. He really wants to.

Father, thank You for Your love—love that sent Jesus to this earth. Quicken my heart, open my eyes, make me teachable, help me seek Jesus when all I want to do is be alone in my misery. Catch my heart on fire.

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